The Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) has stepped up support for women entrepreneurs by continuing the SheTrades programme from the International Trade Centre (ITC), which is in its closing stages.
The SheTrades initiative provides women entrepreneurs and women-owned SMEs around the world with a unique network and platform to connect to markets. It also trains women in their respective fields or entrepreneurship with skills that will help them brand their products and market them, as well as helping them develop solid business plans which will enable them to easily access capital from financial institutions.
However, the programme’s duration expires this year. But given the benefits and advantages it has brought to women entrepreneurs who participated in it, the CEO of GEPA, Dr. Afua Asabea Asare, said her outfit is ready to take it up and expand it to reach as many women as possible.
“This is a project thatis going to end at a certain time. But because of the advantages and interest we have in it, GEPA has taken it on board to continue from where the ITC leaves the project. And since we still continue to work with ITC on other projects, it means ITC will constantly be with us. So, we encourage more women to register with the SheTrades programme,” she said during a visit by the ITC Executive Director, Pamela Coke Hamilton, to GEPA in Accra.
Ms. Coke-Hamilton commended GEPA for its willingness to take over the SheTrades programme, which has brought enormous benefits to the women entrepreneurs who participated.
She called for more partnerships with government and its agencies to work together on rolling out programmes that transform the country’s entrepreneurship environment.
“What is really helpful for us is not only to be working directly with you [the entrepreneurs] as SMEs and micro enterprises, but also to have a governmental ecosystem and then an institutional partner like GEPA to be able to work with you in partnership so as to get much greater results,” she said.
A beneficiary entrepreneur, Emi-Beth Aku Quanson, CEO of Kawa Moka – a coffee/tea producer, thanked the ITC for introducing such an important programme; which she said has transformed her business and those of many.
“One of the challenges I was facing earlier was organising our farmers. But through the SheTrades Commonwealth we were able to get advice on how cooperatives and associations work, and how best to organise them. So, now we are able to organise them and even trace our coffee to the exact farm where they were produced.
“They are also supporting us to get organic certification; and so we are hopeful that by next year we will be the first organic-certified made-in-Ghana coffee in the country. And another thing they are working on is access to finance. So, they are training us on how to write a winning business plan that can help us get access to finance,” she said.
Another entrepreneur, Christabel Ofori, CEO of FlocareBeauty – a cosmetic startup, said she has received support from the SheTrades initiative that has improved the quality of her product and branding, as well as helping her to connect with other entrepreneurs in the same field – which has made her enjoy economies of scale.
“When I started, this was not how I was packaging my products. So, basically, my branding has changed to make it look more attractive on the shelves. I have improved on my formulation and we were taught to also have products for specific target markets. For example, since I am making products for babies there are specific products which work for babies in Africa, given our weather.
“And again, the networking has helped. I have met people in the same industry, and so sometimes when I want to order things I do it together with others, and that makes the cost cheaper,” she said.
In three years of implementation, the SheTrades project has built the capacity and competitiveness of almost 600 women-owned businesses in the country. It has connected more than 200 businesses to international buyers, with sales valued at US$7million. It has so far generated more than 762 new jobs, of which 545 belong to women.